Whether you have completed your paralegal associates or are a first-time student, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies will help you gain the necessary knowledge and expertise to propel your career. A bachelor’s degree with no prior college education takes around four years to complete. With an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree can be completed in about two years. No matter what your educational background is, there are a plethora of traditional and online paralegal programs to choose from.
The career opportunities for a paralegal are practically endless. As a paralegal with a bachelor’s degree, you are not bound to the traditional law firm or attorney’s office. You can work in any industry with a legal department, especially if you have taken several classes about that legal industry. A paralegal can work in any of the following places and more:
- Local, State, and Federal Government Offices
- Businesses and Corporations
- Insurance Carriers
- Non-Profit Organizations
- Title Insurance Companies and Real Estate Firms
While people can begin their paralegal career with an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies is highly sought after by employers. A bachelor’s degree will give you the opportunity to learn more about law in a general sense, and also specific areas of law. You can either continue to study a legal specialization in a master’s degree program, or apply to an organization that serves clients in that field.
Jobs & Salaries
Employment of paralegals is expected to grow 8 percent in the decade leading up to 2024. This hiring boost is partially attributed to ever expanding role of a paralegal. While tasks may vary depending on the organization, paralegals are responsible for:
- Reviewing and Organizing Documents
- Prepare Written Reports for Lawyers
- Conduct Legal Research
- Draft Settlement Agreements
Paralegals must also be familiar with the various software applications and other technology used to manage, organize, and collect data from client documents. States with the highest employment level for paralegals are California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois. The median annual salary for a paralegal is $48,810 (BLS.gov).
The first two years of a paralegal bachelor’s program is constructed similarly to a paralegal associates program, and in that time you will receive a well-rounded education in both general education and law. Once you are in the latter half of your paralegal bachelor’s program, you will develop your critical thinking, communication, and research skills, and be able to take classes that can help you pick a specialized area of law. Paralegals are not required to study a legal specialization, but it can be beneficial to have on your resume when you are beginning your career after graduation. Some of these classes about specific types of law include:
- Corporate, LLC, and Commercial Law
- Advanced Civil Litigation
- Special Education Law
- Bankruptcy Law
- Real Estate Law
You can pursue either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of sciences in paralegal studies. The biggest difference between the two programs is that a bachelor of arts is usually offered by a liberal arts educational institution (focuses on communications, writing, etc.), whereas a bachelor of sciences is offered by schools that place more focus on technology and researching. We have compiled 25 essential paralegal reference books that may come in handy no matter which degree program you choose.
How to Get Started as a Paralegal
The first step in becoming a paralegal is to find an accredited paralegal studies program. Most paralegals have an associate’s degree or a certificate in paralegal studies, while some earn a bachelor’s or even a master’s degree in paralegal studies. The following programs fulfill these criteria and might make excellent options:
Miller-Motte Technical College
Southern Technical College